Brothers In Arms


Again drawing on imagery from Duanaire Finn, this poem was written in May 2015 as I contemplated my brother's upcoming move to Canada from the UK. His bedroom was next to mine at home, and while we'd drifted apart while he was at university or living in Central London, he moved home for a few months and we grew close again, although sometimes he drove me mad or came into my room late at night and told me to turn my music off -- not something I had to deal with when my parents were the only ones at home because they lived at the other end of the house. We talked about things we'd never discuss with our parents, and while I wouldn't say we knew each other's secrets, he probably knew more of mine than I originally intended to share.

We used to go to a folk jam in Camden together; I'd play the tin whistle or, on one notable occasion, the shaky egg I'd pickpocketed from him while he played guitar. Realising that he was about to leave suddenly hit me in May, although I'm not sure why it was worse then than at any other time. I was reading Duanaire Finn at the time, and latched into Oisin's mourning for his lost brothers in arms as I contemplated saying goodbye to my actual brother.

Brothers In Arms

Like Oisin I know the emptiness of bells,
the loneliness of prayer in the quiet hills.
Not for me the baying of the hounds;
it isn’t the stag’s roar that I miss.

It’s the drums and the acoustic guitar,
your mandolin with my whistle
or the shaky egg I took from you.
It is fried food and sugar sweet hidden
from the disapproving eyes of parents,
it is fumbling fingers interrupted
and secrets bared and explained.

The salt has left my eyelids sharp
and tender as fresh bruises.
I kneel beside Oisin to pray:
he understands the ache of the bell
as a substitute for what we have lost.
These prayers are ineffective lullabies.

It is cold, here, in our house tonight.

The End

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